Wax Wings Productions is one of the few theater companies in town that develop and produce original plays. It’s quite a risk and we’re indebted to WW for its dedication to new work and for its high production values. Bravo.
Cassie M. Seinuk’s EYES SHUT DOOR OPEN is finishing its run at the Inner Sanctum Visual Arts building this weekend, through August 16th. Seinuk has written enough material for three intriguing plays (and one horror movie) with EYES. There’s the rub. Her first plot idea is a keeper: Victor Shopov portrays a savvy painter who’s basking in the glow of stardom at a reception for his latest show. He smugly tells us he could have any of the tony women giving him the eye. Instead he’s set his sights on the gorgeous cater/waiter who seems impervious to his charms. The two trade barbs and sparks are ignited. It’s a nifty setup.
Melissa M. DeJesus as the aloof butterfly is counting on the testosterone that sends males of the species tearing after the one female who isn’t interested. Of course she’s interested and she knows just how to lure him in. There have been a spate of stories over the years about bright young women (and men, too, I’m sure) who have insinuated themselves into the lives of luminaries, especially the reclusive kind. (For example, years ago a college freshman wrote a fan letter to J.D. Salinger and parlayed it into a live in relationship and plenty of fame for her... albeit most of it negative.) Is this what the stunning woman is after? She certainly seems to have an agenda.
This clever butterfly is in fact a journalist who lies to the painter to get details for a story about him. Seinuk makes her publication Vanity Fair, which has had its share of lawsuits on the subject of exploitation. Comeuppance is a nifty kernel for a plot but Seinuk complicates the story with what appeared to me to be some terrible organic affliction for the painter. He has blinding, recurring headaches with a frightening, burning aura accompanied by distorted, crackling noise: All the earmarks of a brain tumor or an aneurysm or a seizure disorder perhaps.
But No. This is where the play veers off into pseudo psycho-Freudian territory. Evidently deep emotional scars are causing the headaches and menacing voices. (In the not too distant past, the very real “Son of Sam” killer thought voices were telling him to commit mass murder.) In the artist’s case, it’s the “Son of Sandman” calling but the “psycho” diagnosis doesn’t really fit because he’s able to function apart from the headaches… and function extremely well, becoming the toast of SoHo. He may have a ton of guilt to deal with but guilt doesn’t manifest itself in hallucinations, horror movie style with faceless bogeymen popping out from behind closed doors.
Of course, you can drive anywhere with a literary license. I just can’t go with you if it doesn’t make sense. Director Christopher Randolph has a field day scaring us with deafening sound and blood red lights. And if headaches, voices and two characters working at cross purposes aren’t enough, Seinuk introduces a third character, portrayed by Michael James Underhill, adding even more creepiness as the artist’s mentally and physically damaged younger brother. When he arrives, the fur (not to mention the visual metaphors) really starts to fly.
The crackerjack acting is what keeps up the intensity of the piece, even while we’re trying to make the bizarre puzzle fit. Violence makes me squeamish. I would have preferred more psychological give and take and less “slasher” activity but that’s just me.